Here we are in the middle of May, finally moved on from Newbury, but now stuck once again in Abingdon on the Thames. Luckily this is one of our favourite towns on the Thames and since being here, have been treated to very hospitable behavior from the lock staff, other boaters, and local merchants. While we await the availability of parts and mechanic to replace a head gasket on the motor, we are taking the time to catch up on some maintenance, cleaning and of course communicating.
What a difference a few weeks makes! We are currently basking in sunny 21C conditions and have had spells up in the high 20s!!! Very nice. There have been some cooler and wet days but fewer thankfully enabling us to finally move from Newbury as water levels and flows receded.
When we could finally leave Newbury we had a reasonably trouble free cruise towards Reading, stopping for a couple of nights in Aldermaston. The Kennett River sections were a little bit wild with most of it still on amber caution alert – only travel if experienced and necessary. But we were able to proceed safely and with the kind assistance of a couple of young women operating the traffic swing bridge at Woolhampton, even managed to navigate this notoriously wild stretch without incident.
Finally, we left Reading and turned north onto the Thames. It felt so good to be moving again and despite the heavy Bank Holiday weekend river traffic and fairly strong current, we made good progress to finally moor up near the Child Beale Wildlife Park. Unfortunately, our plan to moor at Pangbourne for a couple of nights was thwarted by an abundance of other boaters with similar goals beating us to the location.
We made it to Wallingford the next day and enjoyed a BBQ with Chris and Jim’s daughter and son-in-law, Kim and Lawrence, and of course their dog, Bella. The river was still crowded with enthusiastic boaters and families cooling off in the river from the rather warm day.
We took the opportunity here to remove our cratch (bow) and stern covers and give them a vigorous post-winter tub and scrub. In the process of reattaching them to the boat, Bob fell in but managed to keep on his hat, glasses, slippers and held on to the side covers. Nothing like a refreshing morning dip!!
Once underway we quickly realised that our cooling system was not working. Having recently had a header tank fitted so that we could monitor the fluid levels in the system, we were quite alarmed to see the levels rising radically with huge bubbles bursting and sending water everywhere. Fortunately, outside the pub in Shillingford, we were able to moor up and called River Canal Rescue to assist us. Jim and Chris ventured on to Abingdon while we awaited the arrival of a mechanic. He found a split hose and repaired that and on testing the system was confident that the problem was solved. We happily proceeded toward Abingdon oblivious that the cooling system fluid was leaking all over the engine bay. Once we were moored up and Bob did his usual engine bay checks the harsh reality unfolded. A further visit from RCR revealed a head gasket problem which we are now awaiting news of a repair date for.
Entertainment and Social Activities
Never ones to let the grass grow under our feet, we took advantage of our time in Newbury to make a return visit to Portsmouth with Jim and Chris, staying again at the Cricketers Inn in Steep. We had missed seeing the HMS Alliance submarine which is part of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard exhibition but lies across the bay at Gosport at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum. We caught the waterbus across to it and arrived in time for a guided tour through the very tight quarters aboard – whilst very interesting it made the space we have available on Celtic Maid feel positively palatial!! It was well worth the return visit to round off a very fascinating museum.
We also went to the cinema for the first time in goodness knows how long. We saw The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society at the Vue cinema in Newbury. All of us enjoyed it immensely and despite none of it being actually filmed in Guernsey, the storyline, acting, and cinematography were all excellent. A great distraction on a cold and wet afternoon.
A visit to our friends, Sue and Chris, in Baldock gave us an opportunity for some local sightseeing as well as catch up on medical matters. They took us to visit nearby Wimpole Hall, which had beautiful rooms and stunning gardens. The following day we all went to an exhibition on the riverbank in London of the entries in a travel photography award. Some of these were amazing, some fascinating and some confronting. We bid Sue and Chris farewell and returned by train to Newbury.
Julie and Phil came to visit us whilst we were moored at Newbury. Despite our best intentions we just haven’t been able to get together since before Christmas and this was a lovely relaxed catch-up, having lunch at the Lock, Stock and Barrel pub. Always good to be together no matter how short the time.
Whilst here in Abingdon we were blessed with a visit from Andy and Tracey who we met when we first started narrowboating and they were preparing to take their widebeam Moongazing, to Belgium and France. They have since returned and sold Moongazing and have started a new life aboard a narrowboat. They have kindly shared details of their experiences on the European waterways with us, helping us with the preparations for the big next adventure next year. A fabulous lunch at the Nag’s Head and a couple of wines/beers to wash it down helped us all to get over recent setbacks in our boating experience.
We should know by now not to make any plans. Given that we don’t know how soon we can get the repairs done and continue our journey, we make no promises about anything. But we are looking forward to Bob’s sister Judy and husband Ted arriving in a fortnight to join us for a week. And soon after they leave my sister Yasha and husband Juergen will arrive in their new truck and camper for six months touring the UK with frequent catch-ups with us. Happy days.
Also, we have a date to cross the Ribble Link onto the Lancaster Canal for 5 lovely weeks of trouble-free cruising and rest with friends Julia and Malcolm aboard Figment.
So much to look forward to and meanwhile …..gorgeous weather to enjoy!!!!